How Listening to Residents Helps Senior Living Providers One-Up Competition

If you’re a senior living provider who wants to get a leg up on your competitors, it might be wise to consult your residents first.

That’s according to LCS Development Project Development Manager Ross Nichols and Kimberly Finch Dominy, executive director of Casa de las Campanas, a not-for-profit life plan community in a suburb of San Diego, California. Nichols and Finch Dominy shared insights and tips during an April 20 webinar detailing how a project to reposition the senior living community increased resident engagement and gave the community a competitive edge in an increasingly crowded market.

Spoiler alert: the companies say their resident-inspired renovations ultimately led to a happier, healthier community environment and boosted the number of visitors and tours they got.

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Gathering resident feedback

The project began with a startling realization that competition in the area was heating up.

“We found that there was significant competition in the local market that we did not have in the past,” Finch Dominy said.

So, together with LCS Development, they embarked on a master planning process. The ultimate goal was to help build “social capital,” which is “essential to meet the needs of the human condition,” Nichols said.

LCS and Casa de las Campanas loosely followed Maslow’s hierarchy of needs — the famous psychological theory that maps out the basic needs of humans — to find out what the residents wanted that the community didn’t already offer.

First, they surveyed residents to hear directly from them as to what the new design should include. Many residents said they wanted private rooms and showers in the health center, private apartments in the assisted living area, more indoor common area space, increased “useable” outdoor space, an improved fitness center, and extended dining hours.

Casa and LCS kept residents in the loop on design plans and sought feedback several times throughout the design and planning process. Staffers invited residents to tour other communities or try out fitness equipment from a multitude of vendors to make sure they were getting what they wanted, for example.

“We asked residents for their suggestions,” Finch Dominy said. “We made changes if they found they were necessary or useful to benefitting the social workings of the community.”

Keeping residents in the loop

Soon after planning wrapped up, construction crews got to work overhauling parts of the community. The goal was to create communities and more spaces for socializing, Nichols said. For instance, workers built more windows to draw in natural light and added fireplaces and room dividers to create naturally intimate areas.

“We wanted to create some additional gathering spaces,” Nichols said. “Places where you can sit down and have a conversation, or just say hello to someone.”

They also broke living spaces into distinct “neighborhoods” with their own unique color schemes and artwork to create a greater sense of belonging.

Along the way, staffers shared basic financial information with residents and made sure they understood the renovations would not affect their monthly rates.

“Many of our residents are very conservative, so they’re concerned when we spend any money,” Finch Dominy explained.

Power of resident input

Today, Casa de las Campanas serves as a testament to the power of resident input, Finch Dominy said.

Some rooms, once slightly drab and dimly lit, now offer plenty of color and life. Conversations break out in previously quiet hallways. Residents’ family members are more likely to visit or dine in the bistro. The number of visitors and tours have increased.

“I think it has been extremely successful,” Finch Dominy added. “We’re very excited for where we are.”

Written by Tim Regan

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